After Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park, it was time to head south. That meant it was time to confront what I only knew through Google Maps: The Unites States are HUGE! Therefore, it takes lots of time to travel between places.
And yes, there are supposedly tiny states in the northeast and distances between places are larger out west than back east, yet the truth is everything in the United States is enormous when you come from a country like Israel. To give you an idea of how tiny Israel really is, I won’t only tell you that it can fit twenty times inside the state of California. In fact, I’ll add that when I first started learning English, I was in fourth grade (that was 18 years ago!), and we had a special class for that course. The class had a world map on one of its walls. Israel did not appear on the map. Why? Because someone accidentally put a pin above it to make the map stick to the wall. That’s right – Israel is so tiny that a pin was able to hide it on a big world map.
The trip south from the Rocky Mountain National Park area was not nearly as long as the 13 hour bus ride from Bariloche to Puerto Madryn (Argentina), and certainly not as long as the seemingly everlasting 23.5 hour bus ride from Puerto Madryn to El Calafate (Argentina) or the 40 hours of flights and layovers it took me to get to New Zealand, yet it reminded me once again how unused I was to long distances.
It reminded me how the concept of long distances changes when one travels through truly long distances.
You see, coming from a country one can cross by car in 10 hours or less, two hours of travel seem long distance. Moreover, I spent four years commuting to my campus. It took me an hour per direction. Only one hour. To get to other places I studied in before my university it took me an hour and a half or more. And still, people asked me now and then if a one hour commute per direction isn’t too much. With this kind of state of mind, go cross Colorado from north to south.
Here are my tips for making it through long distance travel when your concept of distant is a friend who lives 2 hours away. The accompanying photos are from the fall-filled day of traveling from northern Colorado to Southern Colorado.
Food is a great way to pass the time. It also supports your physical system and helps it get through the long distance travel ordeal. It is important not to neglect your nutrition while you travel, yet it is OK to break some rules you might have if it will support you in getting through to your destination and doesn’t hurt your health. I always make sure to have some food and snacks with me when I get on planes, for example. I don’t want to wait for hours until I get my plane meal, which I might and might not like.
It is important to think ahead if you have special food preferences that the airline staff can take care of. Are you a vegetarian, do you eat kosher, do you have a health condition that needs extra attention? Many times you can pre-order your kind of meal from the airline’s website after you’ve booked your ticket. You can do this months in advance, for no extra cost. Now, you won’t be able to decide what you want in your meal, but if you’re a vegetarian, make sure they pre-mark your seat on the vegetarian count, so you won’t end up having to see meat next to your rice or mixed with your pasta.
If you’re traveling long distance via bus or train, sometimes food is included in the price. Other times you can buy a cheaper ticket if you choose to bring your own food (now the question is how much it will cost you to bring your own food). Make sure to ask, and don’t forget to mention any special needs you might have.
2. Listen to Music
I was supposed to use this tip, and here is my confession: two dear people prepared music for me to take on my travels, yet there was a technical challenge, a seminar to finish and a plane to catch – and I ended up traveling without it. At a certain point, someone I met on my travels was kind enough to share her music with me. It was in Portuguese and I don’t really know Portuguese, yet I love any Latin accent and rhythm, and that music exchanged my dismay of traveling 23.5 hours by bus instead of a pre-paid 1-2 hour flight (volcanic ash combined with misunderstanding) into fun.
Music is undoubtedly a major part of what road trips are about. When the tunes mix with the move forward on the road, all you have left is let down your hair and have the wind blow it backwards to feel like you are part of a real life movie.
What a better way to pass three million hours on the road than to let yourself be swept away in an enchanting story that you don’t want to leave? It is recommended to choose your book carefully and bring alternatives if you have space, in case your choice turns out to be not so fantastic. If you’re like me and can’t really read on the road without getting overly sick, I would still suggest trying it on a long plane ride. Sometimes it is impossible for me and sometimes it works.
On my last flight, from New York City back to Israel, I spent approximately 12 hours with no personal screen. A book saved my sanity, even though in some flights I can’t read without feeling some motion sickness.
It was a book about traveling in South America and I was returning home from a trip in the Americas that I did not want to end, but you get the point.
This one might be easier on planes, because even if you don’t get car sick, your hand will move much more when you’re in a car or bus than if you’re on a plane. This is the time to write those postcards or life plans or your own novel. You can write blog posts that you’ll later transfer to your blog.
Many flights enable the use of electronics after take off is done and before landing begins. Be eco-friendly and use your smart phone, tablet or laptop if you have any of those. It will make it easier for you to transfer it to a blog or Word document later on, too!
5. Travel with others
Traveling with others is such a wonderful way to make it through long distance travel. In this no interruption zone, you can share stories with one another, share knowledge, play games and laugh a lot.
Be sure to be considerate of your travel partners’ need for silence, sleep or talk to get through motion sickness, tiredness or insomnia. At the same time, practice speaking up for your own needs. This is a great time to learn how to speak up for yourself, put up boundaries and remember that not everything your travel partners do or say is about you. Everyone reacts differently to long distance travel.
Most of all, it is an opportunity connect, have fun and take silly photos of one another. Just don’t forget to ask for permission before you upload those photos to Facebook or your blog, because some people will mind.
6. Connect with strangers
Strangers can be the saviors of your travels. I’m personally grateful for the nice couple who was on its way home from Israel to New York for helping me get through my flight to the Big Apple. It was interesting to get to know them and they gave me chocolate recommendations for New York! I’m grateful for the American guy on the interior flight in Argentina for the intellectual conversation and for the Argentine guy on the flight to the US for the fun and interesting conversation. I’m grateful for the local Argentine who spent six hours with me on that 23.5 hour bus ride, talking and having a great time. She’s the one who shared her music with me.
And this is only a small sample.
Strangers can make your trip, yet once again, respect others’ boundaries as well as your own. You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it, and you need to understand that others might prefer sleeping or listening to music over chatting. That’s OK. Keep it as an option and stay open and willing, there’ll be plenty of opportunities.
7. Take pictures
Yes, some of them will come out blurry, but who cares? It’ll be worth it for those who’ll come out clear and it’ll be worth it for the memories. Have your camera ready even at the most unchanging landscape. On the way from Puerto Madryn to El Calafate, the landscape remained the same for the majority of the time – until a short part of the road revealed itself as a snow-covered field. It was worth it to have my camera ready.
Taking photos on long distance rides and flights makes the road more fun for me and helps me sustain my sanity. It gives you something to do, passes the time and mostly – engages you in the present moment. If each present moment is worth a photo, each present moment makes a difference. It counts. There’s gratitude to be said.
Sometimes you won’t feel like taking photos. That’s OK. But remember how fun it could be, especially on planes. I always get the window seat. One time I didn’t. I found myself miserable, unable to see the changing views, the clouds, the surprisingly high mountains, the views of take off and emergence into clouds, the views of landing, of a new place welcoming you for a new adventure.
And, of course, there are the sunset and sunrise photos I took from the sky (see three of them here). Undoubtedly, these were some of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. No photo can truly represent it, but can it remind you of the awesomeness and spread a big smile on your face long afterward?
It sure can.
Sometimes you don’t want to take photos. Sometimes you feel too sick or too miserable even though you know the long distance travel will pay off with gorgeous glaciers, high sand dunes, an exciting metropolitan area or a tropical beach. Sometimes you just want sleep off the time.
Read online about good pillows you can take with you, or take a chance with those offered by the airline. Sometimes, simply the rhythm of the wheels on the road or the movement of the plane’s engine will be enough to send you snoozing.
Take under consideration that easily falling asleep on one mode of transportation does not mean it will happen just as easily elsewhere, even if you are very tired. I can easily fall asleep on a bus, yet can barely sleep on planes.
Either way, make sure to tell your travel partner, if you have one, whether or not to wake you up if an amazing site like snow or sunrise comes about. On my flight from Los Angeles to New York to sadly end my trip, I connected with my neighbor on the plane and had a great time talking. Then she fell asleep. A few hours later, the sun began to rise as we got closer to Manhattan. The view got more spectacular with each minute, and I contemplated whether she would want to see it, because she, too, seemed excited about views from planes.
Even though I can’t sleep well on planes and cherish the moment I am able to sleep, I would have wanted someone to wake me up. The experience is worth it to me. But I didn’t know this girl and chose not to disturb her sleep. When she woke up, she thought I made a good choice – even though she liked the photos I took and hurried up to photograph the remaining colors of the sunrise.
If you can’t read and you don’t have a personal screen, you accidentally left your music at home and you can’t sleep, what do you do?
Why, daydream, of course!
This works out great when traveling through dark time zones, when you can barely see a thing, yet note – sometimes, if you look carefully, you will see clouds and other forms that might be mountains or sees. I got so excited when my airplane map indicated we were above the Bahamas and I could see unclear images in the dark sky. I started imagining what it would be like to travel there in daylight…. and on the ground.
Long distance travel is a great time to dedicate to yourself, to imagine how you want your life, business, relationship or pet to be like.
If you can read, you can use this time to plan what you’ll do at your upcoming destination – or start planning a whole new trip!
10. Take a break
While travel can be a break from the world, sometimes you just need to take a break from travel. Pull your car to the side of the road and stretch your legs. Get off the bus at breaks and take in the fresh air.
If you’re on a plane, walk around the aisles a few times and then just stand for a while. If your seat is by the window, don’t be ashamed and ask your neighbors to get up once you feel the need to walk around or go to the bathroom. Moving is important for your health, while seating still for 10, 13 or 23.5 hours can literally cause you health damages.
Do your best to be considerate of your neighbors. If you’re by the window and your aisle-seat neighbor is asleep, if it is not urgent for you to get up, let them sleep some more. It can be a good idea to take advantage of the times following meals or other times your neighbors are awake to wander through the plane. Yes, they chose the aisle seat and they need to be accountable to that and get up when you want to get up, yet you chose the window seat to watch the clouds or have a place to lean your head, so be accountable as well and be a considerate fellow traveler. Nonetheless, if you feel urgency to get up or if they manage to sleep for hours, speak up and take care of your body.
Do you have any other tips for making it through long distance travel?